Archive for July, 2006



Last night Mike and I went out for sushi (where we inadvertently ate squid tentacles which tasted remarkably like bacon) and afterward took a stroll up by Lake Pontchartrain. On the drive home down Williams Blvd (a pretty major street, six lanes with lots of businesses), we saw a dog making its way across the street. It wasn’t moving very fast.

This, in and of itself isn’t very unusual (to see a stray wandering around.) Because many people had to leave their pets in the city when they were evacuated and rescued, lots of dogs *ahem* “got together” and sired many, many puppies. Now those puppies are big dogs and you see them (all scrawny and stuff) wandering around town. We even hear packs of them in the field behind the church, which can be unnerving at times.

Anyways, back to my tale, I saw the dog, and shouted to Mike to put on the breaks. And… when he did, the dog came into the headlights, still slowly making its way across the street, and we could see that it wasn’t a dog at all but a goat. A little, four foot goat.

Some days I just say to myself, “Where am I?”

2 comments July 29th, 2006

Hello Mr. Mayberry


The Wednesday night cookout was awesome. Phil cooked everything here, so there was no need for the grills to come. That meant that I got to talk to folks this time. I sit down next to a guy I knew from the neighborhood working with Phil.

Enter Mr. Mayberry.

We lock eyes as he sits down. “Arnell Mayberry 54 years old. Admiral. US Navy. Retired 5 times.” That’s when I noticed his cap- US Navy Retiree. Now, picture in your mind what you think a retired naval officer with a chip on his shoulder might talk and sound like. This guy was it. He was a very intense fellow.

I had an interesting talk with this fellow. We talk (well more like he talked and I listened, but still) about what’s wrong with NOLA, the Gov’t, and NOLA’s Gov’t. He told me that he was one of the first Black Admirals in the Navy. Then he mentioned that, as a perk, he couldn’t go to jail. He said he could get into a fight right here right now, or take off all his clothes, and the worst that would happen to him would be a luxury trip to the V8- at which point, he’d get PAID for being there.

We talked about how he’d been around the world 21 times. Then about some bombing that he thinks was meant for him that happened in the 80’s during the Pope’s first (and only, to my knowledge) visit to NOLA. He got some big settlement out of it. Bought several houses. One thing that was interesting to me was when he started talking about racism. He said when he was in the service and went to Europe, people treated him like a king he thought. Someone said to him no, its not that – there was just no race here (Europe). Meaning, it simply just didn’t matter. Makes ya think…

Anyhow, he just keeps going on and on. My friend and I kind of share a look like the lights are on but nobody’s home. I’m thinking, if this guy is who says he was, what’s he doing in a ruined house etc etc. Nevertheless I like this guy, and I keep listening and asking him questions about things. At one point, he’s talking about how he can go on any naval base and basically go anywhere he wants in the world and has 3 passports yada yada. Then all of a sudden he pulls out this rather large wallet and starts flipping through it. That’s when I see his department of defense ID, among other official looking things. I didn’t have time to look at things too closely, nor did I want to be rude, but dang! It looked real! Real enough that they either were real, or he payed a lot of mula get them.

Now, I’m not saying everything this guy was saying was legit. But it did blur the lines here. I forgot to mention how at one point he told me that how he retired from the post office was that he told them he was going to blow the place up or shoot people (out of frustration I assume). So instead of what I might surmise would happen, they gave him a pension equivalent to 6k a month.

Well, needless to say it was an interesting conversation. We talked almost the entire length of the cookout. I did notice that the longer we talked, the less tense he seemed. He kept mentioning how there was no one to talk to (since the storm), and how this was nice to talk.

Yes, it was very nice to talk, Mr. Mayberry. See you next week.

Add comment July 28th, 2006

Pinchin’ Tails


I… did it. I did it! I pinched tails.

Last night, the cookout was a huge success. Excluding the people we brought with us, we fed around 150 people! There are four FEMA trailer parks in the area (that we know of), so, since the security guards are confined there, we thought we’d bring them over dinner in carryout boxes. I took three members from the teams we had with us (two from Minnesota, and a guy from Texas) and we drove on over. But… as I was pulling away from the cookout, a man came running up to the truck and said, “They said you were leaving!”

It was Tyrone. Tyrone, and his niece Yolanda, I met last week at the cookout. The flies in that field are terrible. We were talking about N’allins cuisine, and I made an off hand comment about how I’d rather eat food that flies landed on than suck the head of a crawfish. Well… he promised me that he would bring me some crawfish (and the spicy corn and potatoes they boil in the water with it) the next week.

And… he did. He ran up to the truck with a clear plastic bag full of crawfish. How… terrifying!! (And sweet.) When we got back to the cookout I… brought the crawfish over and he and his niece’s daughters taught me how to do it. (I got schooled by a six year old! She told me that it was just like eating celery. ???)

So… Yolanda pulled them in half, BUT… I pinched the tails myself. I… never thought in a million years I would could do that, but, it happened. The corn and potatoes were so spicy that my lips were tingly and numb!! Think they could’ve started a Yankee girl like myself off with mild? 😉

[Tyrone swam a half mile in 8 foot water to get out of the flood last August. Yolanda delivered her sister’s baby on I-610 during the evacuation. He’s living in the trailer park, she’s renting a place with a mice problem… and, though deathly afraid of mice, considers herself lucky.]

Never a dull moment.

6 comments July 28th, 2006

Wed Night… again.


So… The Wednesday night cookout is tomorrow night and… I’m not sure my sneakers are even dry yet from last Wednesday! We tried throwing them in the dryer but the steel toes made it rattle so hard I thought it was going to break the machine!

I chopped pepperoni today–several pounds of it until my hand cramped. (We’re putting it into the baked ziti for the cookout tomorrow.) Last week we would’ve run out of food had we not had a that freak thunderstorm, so we’re making a whole lot more this week! (Hence, the hand cramp.)

Yesterday Mike and I were down in the Gentilly area putting up yard signs we had professionally made to advertise the event. (They look sweet.) We visited the lot where the cookouts are held and… it’s still soggy! In fact, one of the back streets still had flooding. It… is a bit unsettling to think that a week after a one hour rain storm the neighborhood is still wet. I wonder if the pumps are working yet. The locals tell me that the pumps can’t be tested until there is water in the neighborhoods. And, since they’ve been having a drought this year, all the pumps may not be tested yet. Strange things you have to worry about when you live below sea level. I’m concerned that the rain water alone from a hurricane in the Gulf might re-flood parts of the city. Hopefully not enough to break the levees… but maybe enough to mess up houses that have just been refinished. :(

In other news, a team from Minnesota is here right now (along with Austin, TX and Tuscaloosa, AL). I… try not to laugh when they talk because they’re accent is so… sing-songy that I feel like they’re speaking in limerick or something. Hil-arious.

1 comment July 25th, 2006



So… we moved in with Pam. She lives west of Kenner in a town called Norco. We had never driven further west on I-10 than the Loyola Drive exit where the church is. Until… we moved in. Suddenly, as soon as you drive past the Loyola Drive exit, about a half a mile on the interstate, there’s a levey wall and then… nothing. Just absolute, wild bayou. Tall cypress trees and water everywhere. In fact, the highways look like water slides, sitting up on poles, coming out of the water. There is no land–the highway winds up and down through the swamp. It’s crazy.

The first night we were driving home to Pam’s, we saw a huge flame and pillar of smoke on the horizon. There’s an oil refinery on the road, right before you get to Pam’s neighborhood. We were like, “Uh… what’s on fire??!!” It was… a flame from a chimney stack at the refinery. A three or four story tall flame. It lit up the entire sky like it was daylight. In-sane. All I can compare it to is the Eye of Sauron in Mordor from Lord of the Rings. And I’m not even kidding.

Pam had a flier on her door from the refinery saying, “The flare ups are extra high tonight, but everything is under control.” I hope they’re right!

The next morning the flame was quite small, and was again the last two nights. I wish I’d taken a picture when I had the chance!

In other news, Crispin, the worship pastor here, went on vacation with his family for eight days and… we’re house sitting! He lives right across the street from our old apartment, so we’re back to a five minute commute. Well… for a week anyway.

It’s strange being a homeless wanderer, but, without getting too spiritual, God is… stretching me in this area. I like my own space that I can keep how I want. I like my own time alone to just be by myself and recharge. I like being in control of what I eat, so I can take care of my body how I want. I get… none of those things down here. And in that, God is stretching me and teaching me to find my rest in him, and not outside myself. I’m sure it will be a good lesson to learn… once it’s through. 😉

3 comments July 23rd, 2006

The Post Formerly Titled, “A Crappy Day.”


It’s almost hard to even understand the level of crazy which I am feebly about to describe, without walking the mile in the shoes yourself. But I’m gonna try.

Let me start off by saying that posts have been short the last week, and the promised picture gallery not up, because of the level of business we’ve been experiencing. We’d been building up to the Wednesday cookout with increasing intensity. Tuesday during our meeting my boss says, “Tomorrow its you and me. Lets be out the door at 5:30 [in the morning] and bust our you know whats so we can look like we know what we’re doing.” This was cool with me. Last minute would not be a good way to start off everything for the cookout, it being our first time and all.

We get up at 5 as planned, and are out the door by 5:30. We hot foot it over to the church, where we had to load about 60 sheets of 4’x12′ pieces of sheetrock (drywall) for this house we’re helping rebuild. Phil (my boss) teaches me how to drive the huge flatbed truck we’re using to haul everything. It’s a stick diesel truck. So I can now operate a forklift and drive a semi huge vehicle. Well, to make a long story short we busted our you know whats hauling these sheets into the house one at a time by hand. And let me tell you: respect the drywall worker. He, like the roofer, has a tougher job than most would realize. CURRENT STATUS: Sweaty, dog tired, but exhilirated.

Once we get done with that, we head back to home base where we learn that the toilet and shower trailer has become clogged. After checking out the scene (flushing toilets, turning on faucets etc.) we determine that yes, indeed, it is a clog in the pipes. You can now see where I was going with the previous title of this post…

So we bust out the tools. At the first crank of the plug with the wrench stuff is spraying like its a pressure cooker from hell. Phil was a real trooper though and wouldn’t let a little thing like everyone’s sewage going everywhere stop him from getting the job done. We tried opening plugs, checking pipes (luckily they are all above ground), running snakes, and finally ended on the least favored option: cutting the pipe.

Okay, if stuff was gross before, this was a whole new level of funk. When Phil cut that pvc pipe with the saw zaw, it was like a mega ultra super soaker shooting mississippi mud. Only, we weren’t in mississippi and it wasn’t mud. CURRENT STATUS: More sweaty, dog tired, poopy attitude (sorry).

This unforseen chore had now eaten up our “getting ahead of scedule so we look like we know what we’re doing” time. So now its time for getting everything loaded for the big community cookout. Luckily I have just enough time to run back and shower before heading out.

To make another long story short, we get there and set up to start grilling. The teams were a big help getting things rolling. I was on grill duty again, which was hot fun. Everything just clicked. It felt peaceful and good. Not to mention totally sucsessful! Kids playing in the field, people actually staying and hanging out, laughing. Good food, good burgers, and just a totally awesome time!!!

Thats when it started raining.

Everyone scattered. People huddling under tents, crowded. Some just left. Most thought it was no big deal- that’s the way it is in the big (not so) easy- storms go from 0 to 60 in 2.3 seconds. Then they’re over. We had a good time huddling in the tents, laughing and waiting for it to pass. Only, it didn’t pass.

Then there was the lightning.

The wind picked up drastically, and the tents started shaking. Thankfully, they were strong and the tethers helped. We watched as the lightning strikes got closer and closer until they were ALL AROUND US. Some just feet away, at the edge of the field. You could feel it on the back of your neck. At this point most everyone that was from the church with us left, except for the teams. The wind is so hard that the rain was coming into the tent anyway. The streets had utterly flooded, and the water line was now creeping into the field. Not to mention we were running out of daylight. Finally, the decision was made. We had to start packing everything up in the rain and lightning. CURRENT STATUS: all kinds of wet.

It was just so crazy- danger, chaos, feverish working… We had to drop grills off at the church a few blocks away using the big diesel truck. Stacy and I hop on the back to make sure the grills don’t slide off. That was surreal. Driving through flooded streets in the middle of a thunderstorm soaked to the bone on a giant metal plate half past dusk. At first we were laughing like crazy at the ridiculousness of it all. We unloaded the grills and headed back to the site. On the way back, we were sitting in the newly formed traffic and I locked eyes with a guy in a van. He wasn’t laughing. And I realized that this was his neighborhood. Or at least, the memories of Katrina were too fresh in his mind. It sobered me. Stacy must’ve picked up on it too, because we both went from giddy to pensive pretty quickly.

Apparently, it was the worst storm this year down here. I think. But again, to make yet another long story short, we make it back home just in time for the rain to stop. We had to leave my car down there because it wouldn’t have made it in the rain (we got it back safely the next day though).

To cap off such a crazy evening, the mercy response staff all head out to O’Henrys for nice meal. What. A. Day. CURRENT STATUS: Thankful.

3 comments July 22nd, 2006



We’ve had some–er–living situation drama lately.  We were asked to leave our apartment much sooner than we had anticipated.  (It’s finally finished being renovated, so the owner wants to rent it out again, instead of letting us Mercy Response folks stay there rent-free.)  Phil, the other guy who lives at the apartment with us, got a trailer so he can now stay here at the church.  Mike and I, well… at first we were supposed to move in with a couple from the church.  And… after meeting them, well… I cried.  They were super nice, super friendly, but still strangers.  Being a high “I” for all you Myers-Briggs fanatics out there, hanging out with stranger is not my favorite thing to do.  The thought of living with strangers is, in fact, down right stressful.
So… Pam the Mercy Response cook decided to take us in.  :D  Grateful isn’t a big enough word.  And, she always tells me about the alligators she spots on her drive home.  Whoopee!

In other news Mike is, uh, fixing the sewer pipes to the bathroom trailer as I type, but I’m sure he’ll have much to say about that later.  Our first community cookout is tonight!  I took the teams last night and we passed out fliers in the neighborhood and invited people.  One man said he would be there for sure, and thank me while he was stuffing his face. 😉

Wish us luck!

2 comments July 19th, 2006

Minds at Ease


Yesterday we held a mock evacuation at the camp.  We held the teams back from gutting houses, and went through our evacuation plan with them, timing how long it would take and seeing how the process would work/not work so we could streamline it before we have to do it for real.  We tore down everything at the camp that we would for a real evacuation and loaded it all into the trucks and vans.  We had estimated four hours, but it took about two and a half.  (Some things, though, we only pretended to do, so it might be closer to four.)

All in all it went very well. The plan is to evacuate to the Vineyard church at Baton Rouge.  And, for all the parents reading this, there is a plan.  And it does work.  So… there will be no need for worrying when that first hurricane hits the Gulf…  :)

5 comments July 15th, 2006

Wednesday Night Cookout


In lieu of our success at the 4th of July cookout, we’ve decided (and been given permission) to start a regular, Wednesday night event on that same lot. It’ll be a free dinner Wednesday sort of thing, so people can just regularly show up, week in, week out. We’re hoping that it will catch on, and we can feed several hundred people a week. We’re brainstorming ideas on how to get them to stay, hang out and talk, since at the event on the 4th, most people just took their food to go.

We’re also planning on including the teams that come down each week to gut houses–it’ll be a regular event for them, too. We’ll load up all of our stuff–including dinner–and if they want to eat, they’ll have to follow us over there! 😉 In reality, I think most teams would be really excited to participate in such an event, considering a regular disappointment I’ve heard (even from my own team when we came down in January) is that you don’t get much opportunity to talk with the people who live here.

My favorite moment of the 4th of July cookout is when the very first man we met in the FEMA trailer park a few days earlier came over to get some food and, remarkably, I remembered his name was John. You could tell it meant a lot to him that I remembered. I guess because he was a person to me and not a project. I sat down and talked to him a bit, and learned that he has remarkable credit because, after his divorce, he just payed off all the bills his wife left him. He always thought he had bad credit, so he never looked into owning real estate, until his daughter ran his credit and it was almost 800! So he’s buying a house in Texas where he can live in one part, and rent out the other three sections and live off their rent payments!

Anyways, I think recognizing people and getting to know them is going to be awesome. A lot of these people were probably lower middle class before the storm, so it has to be hard suddenly finding yourself needing handouts from people. Hopefully making effort get them to talk, and get to know them will make them feel valuable, and not like this is just a “how many people can we feed” sort of a thing.

Wish us luck!

2 comments July 12th, 2006

I lied.


So… when I said that you shouldn’t be jealous of us in my last post, I lied. You should be jealous. So, so jealous. 😉 Destin, Florida was BEAUTIFUL!! The Gulf of Mexico… is… one of my new favorite places on God’s green earth. Without. A. Doubt. And, being only four hours from New Orleans, we’re sure to go again. As a matter of fact, it turns out my cousin Kim lives not far from there!! How crazy is that?? She said next time we visit, we can spend the night, since we missed her this time. :)

But, there’s not much that can be said about yesterday, pictures will work much better.

This year, I’ve accomplished three items on my list of “Things to do before I die.” I went to the Grand Canyon in March, I’m living in New Orleans right now, and yesterday, I saw the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s me celebrating our arrival:

Me, Yay!

Clear water, a beautiful teal ocean, clean, soft white sand, waves that you can play in but won’t kill you… what’s not to love??

Beach Chair
Us + Beach = Love

We’ll put more pictures in our “coming soon” gallery. We decided not to spend the night there because all of the hotels, even the dirty little motels, were well over a hundred dollars a night! (Way beyond the means of a relief worker whose modest wage is NOTHING.) 😉 So we did a one day trip, and got back into NOLA at one AM. No sooner did we hit New Orleans East, though, did we the smell of mold roll into our car.
C’est la vie.

9 comments July 9th, 2006

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